• Germany edition
 
Karneval – the glossary
Photo: DPA

Karneval – the glossary

Published: 07 Feb 2013 06:07 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Feb 2013 06:07 GMT+01:00

Because of its ancient traditions, Karneval has preserved a vocabulary that would otherwise have fallen victim to the German language’s natural selection. Some phrases are old dialect versions of medieval greetings, to be screamed across swarms of costumed drunkards, others are archaic names for specific things. Here is a cross-section, with The Local’s explanations.

Alaaf! – A Karneval greeting in the Cologne dialect. Like all Karneval greetings, it originates from trying to say something else while inhibited with drink. In this case, it is an alcoholic derivative of “alles ab” or “everything gone,” but can be used to mean “Cologne above all else” in Kölle alaaf! Context provides meaning.

Büttenrede – A rhyming speech mainly given during the variety shows known as Karnevalssitzungen. The Bütte is the lectern from which they are delivered. The tradition, like everything else Karneval-related, is old Christian, harking back to a time when the Büttenrede was used to utter blasphemies punishable by maiming any other time of year. Germans often like to mark festive occasions with rhyming couplets. But not raps.

Gürzenich – A beautiful late medieval hall in Cologne annually ransacked by Karneval-goers, like latter-day Vikings on a raid. One of Cologne’s Karneval societies hosts a huge Karnevalssitzungen here that is televised nationally.

Helau! – Düsseldorf’s Karneval greeting, used in many places including Mainz, and either derived from “Hallelujah” or “Hello.”

Lecker Mädche – Hot chick/fit bird, in the Cologne dialect. Not strictly a Karneval-related term, but one that is often used at this resolutely old-fashioned and over-sexualised event. Simone de Beauvoir would have felt mostly out of place.

Morgestraich – A nocturnal parade held in Basel, Switzerland, one of the few Karneval towns with a Protestant history.

Narrenrufe – The collective term for the many Karneval greetings liable to be barked at you out on the streets. Alaaf! and Helau! are the most common, because they come from the two biggest Karneval cities, but there are almost as many variations on “Hello” as there are Karneval towns. Literally, a Narrenruf is the cry of an idiot.

Narrensprung – The Fool’s Leap, a traditional procession of leaping fools in the town of Rottweil.

Quetschenbüggel – This Dr. Seussian word is an old Rhineland term for a concertina. If you are not fond of jolly concertina music, Karneval is no place for you.

S'goht degege! – An obscure old-German saying, deriving from “Es geht dagegen!” (it goes against…) Whether it means against a wall or your principles, it can be used as a sort of bestial howl to be cried out repeatedly until euphoria turns to despair and you start telling total strangers that you love them and you’ve wasted your life.

Zunft – Another word for a Karnevalsverein, the clubs and societies that organise Karneval events.

Ben Knight (ben.knight@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Sport
Wonder goal puts new boys Paderborn on top
Paderborn players celebrate after defeating Hanover 2-0 to go top of the Bundesliga. Photo: DPA

Wonder goal puts new boys Paderborn on top

Promoted Paderborn went top of the Bundesliga helped by an extraordinary 80-metre goal at Hanover on Saturday as champions Bayern Munich were held to a goalless draw by struggling Hamburg. READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Oktoberfest opens to toast millions
Celebrities Carolin Reiber and Marianne Sägebrecht raise their glasses at Oktoberfest 2014. Photo: DPA

Oktoberfest opens to toast millions

Germany's world-famous Oktoberfest kicked off Saturday with the traditional tapping of the first barrel of beer, as millions of revellers are set to soak up the frothy atmosphere in the 16-day annual extravaganza. READ  

Germany plan air lifts to help fight Ebola
A Liberian man holds his daughter as they wait for treatment for suspected Ebola symptoms in Monrovia. Photo: DPA

Germany plan air lifts to help fight Ebola

Germany and France will send military transport planes to West Africa to help efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel and military officials said on Friday. READ  

Germany beefs up asylum rules for Balkans

Germany beefs up asylum rules for Balkans

Germany made it harder Friday for people from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia to apply for asylum after lawmakers classified the three Balkan countries as safe, with respect for basic rights. READ  

German Muslims rally against extremism
Muslims pray in Kreuzberg, Berlin, on Friday outside a mosque which was damaged in an arson attack. Photo: DPA

German Muslims rally against extremism

Muslims across Germany held a day of prayers and rallies on Friday to condemn both Islamic extremism and a backlash against their faith that has seen arson attacks on mosques. READ  

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup
The trainers on the air strip in Hohn, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: Bundeswehr.

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup

Military trainers flew to northern Iraq from Germany on Friday, ahead of a huge delivery of weapons from the German military, but things didn’t initially go as planned. READ  

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches
Photo: DPA

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches

UPDATE: Munich will play host to four Euro 2020 games, European football’s governing body Uefa announced in Geneva on Friday, but London was the real winner. READ  

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils
The scene by the bus stop outside the school in Diepholz. Photo: DPA

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils

An 18-year-old drove into a group of students outside a school in western Germany on Friday morning, injuring several. READ  

View from Germany
'In a globalized world we don't need more loners'
'No' campaign supporters celebrate in Edinburgh after the results were announced. Photo: DPA

'In a globalized world we don't need more loners'

UPDATE: The German government welcomed the result of the Scottish independence referendum on Friday, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling it the "right decision". READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's beer
Photo: DPA

Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's beer

The Local's Oktoberfest guide chugs some of the Bavarian tipple fueling this whole shindig. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Culture
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's tents
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Drunk teachers ruin school trip to Hamburg
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Oktoberfest 2014: The best and worst in dirndl fashion
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,367
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd